Sunday, February 12, 2006

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #25 - 4ever by The Veronicas

Claire: I often wonder if my current Sissyphus attitude to music (every time I push the rock back up the hill, it seems another James Blunt or Smashing Pumpkins “hit” depresses me and so I start again, trying to push the rock back up the hill and feel positive about music again) is justified. I mean, obviously a world with James Blunt, Jack Johnson, Pete Murray AND Bernard Fanning isn’t one to be happy about, but maybe I’m just jaded from having lived through three distinct golden era’s in Pop music history. However, in recent times, only one act has provided me with a consistent child like excitement. The kind of child like excitement that makes you jump and move with child like glee, and that act, remarkably, are a couple of on the surface Shazzas from the Gold Coast who like wannabe Avril clones on first glance. In fact, appearances made me initially sceptical, but now, I am fully fledged on the bandwagon of The Veronicas. On this list, at this time, this is included as the sound of pop, now.

The Vs, Jess and Lisa, fall into the post Avril era of pop, where the attitude is aggressive and the thrills somewhat spikier. It’s the same aggressive adjustment made by the post World Idol Kelly Clarkson, a louder headrush, the tune thumping louder in the speakers. Luckily, in the case of the Vs, such an attitude doesn’t appear (yet) to have been manufactured – they are what they say they are, excitable and unpredictable girls caught up in the thrills of making great pop. They love doing it, and they work hard at it. Luckily for the Vs, such talent has had it’s own reward with song writing sessions with Billy Steinberg (of Like a Virgin and True Colors fame) and Max Martin (you KNOW who he is). During the sessions with Steinberg, a little song called “All About Us” emerged which was given to TATU, and during the sessions with Sir Max, the adrenalin charged sound of now, 4ever, emerged. Truthfully, if it wasn’t for the Vs and this collaboration, I would almost have totally given up on mainstream music. The Vs give me hope that somehow, someone might yet emerge out of her torpor that is modern music, and provide us all with some genuine pop thrills at the higher end of the chart. Well, we can only pray.

4ever simply doesn’t stop for it’s entire running time. Guitars are crunching, drums are bashing, and Vs and friends are running wild. The aggression in the song is entirely channelled into running amok and having a good time, and not a single second of the song is wasted, packing as much high energy girl pop into the mix as is possible. To proudly state in one breath “Let me take you on the ride of your life!” then dismiss it with a coolly Australian “Yeah, that’s what I said, alright!” is an oddly Australian lyric, at least, the old fashioned non whinging Australia, of laid back cool and charm. Max no doubt supplies enough of a rock edge to JUST sneak past the critics, but let’s face it, this is nothing but bubblegum, a deliriously thrilling ride from go to whoa, just like their bubblegum predecessors who they took their name from, The Archies.

As much as Crazy Chick was my favourite song of 2005, the combination of the fact that this music comes from MY country (and it’s rare I can say THAT proudly) and really came out of nowhere, out of no “scene” or Triple J sponsored hypeathon, and has sold, at least gives me some hope. It was the most exciting song I’ve heard in a long time, and for that reason, it should go straight on this list. Will it last? Will it date? Sometimes, those concerns are worthless. In the here and now, thank God for The Vs. They are keeping me sane.

Alyson: I must admit, from first listen, I was more excited by the Vs potential than any other Australian pop group in a long, long, long time. Not that that would be hard of course, given our long drought in doing anything poptastic. The Vs are such an exciting prospect, they seem totally incongruous for the year 2006, a time characterised by the bland leading the bland. I have an odd feeling they might be a starting point for something, that spiky pop thrills might be refined and reproduced by similar bands, which would be encouraging, if record companies stopped searching for the next pub rocker with a guitar and looked for glamour. Still, even if this flops in America, at least it’s spawned “4ever”.

I agree with Claire in that’s a very childlike thrill. There’s other Vs songs which are a bit more deep and meaningful, but similar to Republicas Ready To Go, this is a full on crash into the heart of the nightlife, into the heart of wide eyed thrills. I always like to see what a song sounds like at full volume, and the Vs pass that test easily. Unlike so much modern music which filters in the back of coffee shops, the Vs are far more excitable and difficult to pigeon hole. We still don’t know a lot about them on a personal level, but we do they’ve had this crazy idea to make loud, enjoyable music you can crank up, dance to and run around mad to and more importantly, enjoy. Amazing idea, I hope it catches on, crazy as it sounds…

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #24 - Ready To Go by Republica

Alyson: Whisper it gently if it helps, but that whole Britpop thing, is was kind of rubbish wasn't it? I mean, it left behind, what Alright, Common People and some decent Oasis tunes - but nothing else, and even those songs aren't exactly being whipped out over and over again for people to enjoy. It's no surprise to me Pop was back in the ascendancy by the end of 1996 - let's face it, people felt good, and looked good, and wanted to feel JOYOUS, and what was there to soundtrack it - Cast? Ocean Colour Scene? Sleeper? Come ON...

Besides, it was hardly POP was it? It was hardly joyous life affirming music that pumped out of stereos in 1995 for the most part, not a lot set for the heart of the dance floor. In fact, out of the whole morass of a "scene", there's only one song, to me, that fairly and squarely sits on this list, and that is the spiky, exciting, headrushing thrills of Ready To Go, by Republica. Now Claire and I had a very long argument since she didn't think this song was Pop, so let me state my case. Band fronted by former model, containing pointless other blokes, but committed to soaring, tuneful nightlife themed thrills? So far, so Blondie surely? Ready To Go is a song of rare, amazing choreography, bouncing along on the rhythms of the wide eyed clubber, about to embark on a night of mayhem. It's a song about expectation, nervous excitement as your pals and you storm out of the house in terms of thrills and clubs. That sounds a lot like Pop to me. Besides, there's no fade out, the song ends sharply and abruptly, never losing it's fizz, or it's momentum. The aggressive vocals shout and cascade all over you, until you can't help but shout along. That's not sing, but SHOUT. And if you are like me, you have, let's face it, been ready to go, from the rooftops, shout(ing) it out. A perfect line, the magic of the night summed up pefectly. If you've never had a night out in a city, full of people, and truly believed you and your friends are the centre of attention, you haven't lifed. And I know when I thought that, felt that, Republica were playing in my head, over and over again. Frankly, what could be more Pop?

I don't know a lot about Republica, and researching them would probably not make me love this song any more (I know the lead singer is called Saffron, and she had proper red hair) and that's about it. Ready To Go will always be a feeling to me, an emotion, a place, the heart stopping moment between drunkeness and sobriety where the whole world stops, and only you remain, as head of the planet. And what, surely, could Pop better represent.

Truly, and simply, amazing

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #23 - Biology by Girls Aloud

Adem: Fairly appropriate that this song be the next Aloud entry into the list, seeing as it is literally only MERE WEEKS till the lovely ladies visit our ("our' being myself and the CFBgoespop ladies) home country of Australia, in gear to launch "Biology" as their first 'proper' (ie: properly promoted) single here.

Asking me what my favourite Girls Aloud song is would be like asking me what my favourite Madonna song is. Even though I know the answer to both, there's such a fine line between songs that it really is a difficult decision to make within yourself. It's even tougher to go sharing such bold statements outside of your mind.

Up until "Biology", "Love Machine" pretty much only JUST found itself as my most treasured Aloud single. But then again, has there ever been a single as eclectic and glorious as "Biology"? My honest opinion is that no, there has not. I could very well pass away tomorrow and would be content in knowing that I had lived my life long enough to have heard the greatest pop record of all time.

You see, for me, this song has easily trumped my original choice of Pat Benatar's "Love is a battlefield" as pop musics finest moment. The first time I heard it, I got goosebumps. The second time I heard it, I found myself crying with joy at the chorus (not a joke, I cried real tears). The third time I heard it, I knew it was the greatest piece of music created in the history of sound.

I, like Claire with her "...Baby One More Time" entry earlier, don't know whether anything I say could ever quite do this song the justice it deserves. I almost think that it may even be too good for the general music consumer. I mean, it takes all of the greatest elements of every single brilliant moment ABBA had and gives it a tonne of really high quality cocaine, throws in a chorus that sounds as if it was molded on the genius robotics only found in sweetness of the remade Stepford Wives movie, and, god, that piano... It's all just too much for mere mortals to take in, surely?

The lyrics, and the vocal delivery, are just several hundred levels of amazing as well. "So I've got my cappuccino to go, and I'm heading for the hills again" is true Aloud-Avant-Garde joy, and when they pipe in with "We give it up... and then they take it away", I can, everytime without fail, feel every single hair on my body stand on end, ready to leap from out of my skin, onto the nearest dancefloor to begin some kind of insanely dramatic dance of life.

But easily, without any doubt, the songs most shining moment comes from the line: "The way that we talk, The way that we walk..." Such a simple line, yet so effective. The tears of joy I mentioned earlier? That was the line that got me, and still does get me.

This will be the single I forever remember Girls Aloud for. It will be the first song that comes to my head whenever someone says "Pop music". Till the day I die, I can assure you that no other song will ever quite match, let alone beat, its utter brilliance and shining glory. If a song were to ever trump "Biology" and its greatness, I'd imagine that there would be serious global damage, because surely people's ears are just not ready for anything THAT amazing.

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #22 - Club Kung-Fu by Vanilla Ninja

Alyson: The next time some slack minded waster with too much time on his hands comes out and bemonds downloading music, they might want to reflect on the amazing barrier deconstruction this had lead to - believe me, when I was young, 30 seconds of a song from America was an amazing, and quite wonderful treat, while you waited the 6 months for Straight Up to be released. Now, you can keep easy and simple track of charts from all over the world, which is wonderful if your own charts, like Australia's, are bloody awful. For tucked away in the recesses of the world are amazing acts waiting for YOU to go out and discover them - which is why, in the middle of a depressing run of #1 singles for the likes of Akon and Nitty, last year, in the midst of downloading despair, I stumbled upon the greatest girl band on the planet - Vanilla Ninja.

The Ninja, for the unitiated, come from the land of estonia, or 'Stonia as I call it, and comprised Maarja (later replaced seamlessly by identical twin Triinu), Katrin, Piret and Lenna in the year of 2003. They are so popular in their home land, Club Kung Fu was written and perfected purely for Song For 'Stonia, complete with a Kung Fu themed dance that involved thrust kicks, hand claps and general jumping around. The song itself is a classical piece of euro-pop aimed solely for the heart of eurovision, lasting just over two and a half minutes long, and carrying on like the best party you've ever heard for it's whole running time. It's an aggressive, in your face piece of joy pop to bounce along to and sing along to. Of course, for a song of such tremendous fun, there's a lot to enjoy. Cheap and cheerful Chinese sound effects such a big Rank style gong and some fabulous Oriental themed guitar, and some of the greatest lyrics committed to song: "Hear that DJ playing a record/best thing, after Def Leppard" and such like girl chants designed to stick in the brain rock through the speakers and crackle and fizz with pure pop excitement. The girls themselves are the cherry on a delicious cake - fiesty, glamorous and full of energy, they tear into their work with an almost sinister joy - in this case, they sound posessed and determined to get in eurovision. Club Kung Fu is such a riot of colour, sound and movement, and yes, bad dancing, it'd charm the frown off a Bob Facking Dylan fan.

And now, to the point of this post, which is to use the phrase Michael Fucking Ball as many times as possible. Have I said Michael Fucking Ball enough yet? Well I'll say it again, Michael Fucking Ball. At the song for 'Stonia competition, the Ninja stormed the public vote with 66.5% of the population saying, yes, please, send the Ninja to eurovision - but no, for there was also a panel vote, and on that panel was Michael Fucking Ball, and guess what? He had the Ninja NINTH (NINTH!) which meant no Ninja at eurovision - Michael Fucking Ball, who wouldn't know a good tune if it smacked him in his benny mush, judged it not worthy. Frankly, I think that proves my point. One of the most wonderous, demented pop thrashes of the last 10 years, and an absolute joy, so worthy of a place on this list.

And oddly, no place on it for Michael Fucking Ball...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #21 - (You Drive Me) Crazy by Britney Spears

Claire: As a serious musicologist, specialising the field of Britney Spears, it’s fair to say that my brain never truly accepts “Sometimes” as Spearsy’s second single. Oh OFFICIALLY, it was, and if some other contributor wishes to have a stab it, all to the good, but to me, Britney ballads have always underwhelmed – there’s a lot to enjoy in them (not least Sometimes rather jolly harbourside literally interpretative coy dancing) but, how can I put this, they are rather like the support act at a concert. The exciting pop thrills in Britney’s early work are balanced out by a selection of America’s Sweetheart ballads that are generally quite skippable (as a functional guide, tracks 6 through 10 on the first album are hard work to endure, after 5 of the best tracks in pop history, with The Beat Goes on a divisive issue). Besides sometimes has just SO much white, someone was clearly suggesting something. So for the chronological order of the generations most fantastic pop star, we skip straight to single #3, (You Drive Me) Crazy.

When I said before …Baby One More Time was the greatest song of all time, I wasn’t lying, but conversely, it’s (You Drive Me) Crazy (note, brackets, always a good thing in a pop title) that I play the most of any Britney song purely for enjoyment. …Baby One More Time is like a fine wine to be savoured, while (You Drive Me) Crazy is more of a TAB Cola or a Mello Yello – still fantastic, but a lot more fun. It’s oft overlooked in discussions of the greatest Britney songs for just this reason - the craft in the song isn’t as wonderous or amazing as in other Spearsy songs, it’s probably a lot more sugary and fizzy and childlike in it’s thrills, but it’s probably one of the last time, at least in my opinion, it looked like a hell of a lot of carefree fun being Britney Spears.

Backed in a (for the time) rather iconic pairing with a clearly bewildered and confused Melissa Joan Hart (whose face when the song STOPS! still makes me laugh) and performing in front of a large orange sign that said CRAZY, it’s the Britney video that I enjoy the most. I’m always angered by anyone (as I’ve said before) who finds early Britney “robotic” – she has a unique, distinct vocal style, not just on the ever popular delivery of the word “meh” and “Jum-pingggg”, but in her ability to go from sweet honey vocalled innocent to possessed dervish in the chorus of one sentence (Britney’s under-rated singing ability has been known to see me start arguments). I’d imagine that for Max Martin and co, this was fun to produce, a cow bell here, some faux scratching there, everything sounds like the kitchen sink of late 90s Pop production was thrown in the mix. Lyrically, it’s straight and direct - …Baby One More Time was coded, and a bit murky as to it’s intentions. (You Drive Me) Crazy is straight from the SAW school of lyrics: “You drive me crazy, but it feels alright” speaking nothing but universal truth about young love. Above all else, it’s heart of the dancefloor stuff, in a way that …Baby One More Time never quite has been. The energy and enjoyment this song still engenders in me is always enough to make me feel about 14, which is a true and brilliant facet of great pop.

I could tell you a lot of fascinating and well researched Toby Cresswell style facts about this song (FACT! It was only released on a 12” single in the US, which hurt sales and FACT! It was a tie with the Melly J-H film Drive Me Crazy) but in simple terms, this song is important in convincing me that Britney Spears was the most vivacious, clever and wonderful pop star on the planet. Three singles, radically different, three different images, all wonderfully choreographed and iconic. She was special, she was glorious, and she was here to stay. The rest, you felt, would take care of itself…

Monday, February 06, 2006

For those keeping score...

...this is entries 1-20, I think we've already covered a wide poptastic scope. In fact, I'd suggest, it also makes quite the IPOD playlist...

Betty Boo - Doin' The Doo
Britney Spears - ...Baby One More Time
Dannii Minogue - All I Wanna Do
Deborah Gibson - M.Y.O.B
Girlfriend - Girls Life
Girls Aloud - Sound Of The Underground
Hanson - I Will Come To You
Holly Valance - Ricochets
Kim Wilde - Kids In America
Kylie Minogue - I Should Be So Lucky
Lisa "Left-Eye" Lopes - The Block Party
Liz Phair - Why Can't I
Madonna - Into The Groove
Melissa - Read My Lips
Mint Royale featuring Lauren Laverne - Don't Falther
Rachel Stevens - Some Girls
Spice Girls - Wannabe
Take That - Never Forget
The Banana Splits/Liz Phair - The Tra La La Song
The Twins - All Mixed Up

Magical, thankyou Toby Cresswell for your stupid book - long may it continue...


1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #20 - Don't Falter by Mint Royale featuring Lauren Laverne

Claire: When we live on a planet where songs with the ability to uplift and delight are considered the lightweight songs, and 9 minute miserable epics the "real", you sometimes get the feeling that music was a bad idea, one that the populace couldn't handle. Why a nation would want to huddle around it's IPODs listening to James "Rhymes With" Blunt, when they could be out enjoying the sunshine and falling in youthful messy and disastrous love is such a bewildering notion, if we explained it to aliens, they'd laugh us out of existence. Bizarrely, one of the most amazing pieces of pure sunshine pop of all time isn't held up for the praise it deserves more often, but that's what I'm here for - which brings us neatly to summing up Don't Falter.

Lauren Laverne, for those who don't know, was the lead singer of the most fabulous girl band you never heard of, Kenickie (more of whom later). To cut a long story short, on the verge of hotly tipped mega stardom on the back of some amazing, hilarious power pop, Lauren got cold feet, began to hate London, went a bit mardy, and made a misery tinged epic called Get In! which saw Kenickie dropped from their label and Lauren never speaking again to her ex bandmates. Subsquently, this rather angular talent hasn't fulfilled what looked like a glorious amount of potential, and was working as a DJ at last check. I'm not sure of her current relationship status, but post Kenickie while she was home in Sunderland having a break, I know she penned this song in honour of her then boyfriend, some bearded guy out of Arab Strap (I know, I don't know either). Dance act Mint Royale picked up the beat, and a glorious, amazing collaboration was born.

Don't Falter is what musicologists would call "Sunshine Pop" - a song with no other aim or reason in life than to bounce, soundtrack young love, and celebrate summer sunshine. Oddly, Lauren sounds a little like she's struggling with the vocal, as if distracted, but it adds to the charm, since she never once overpowers the track. There is not a single wasted second in the entire song, but it's far from bombastic. I consider this a very english dance track in many ways - it's got a charm to it that's just amazing. It's love, it's summer, it's stolen kisses, and it's youthful exubarence all in one fantastic pop song. And it's full of depth too: "You must decide," intones Lauren, "to risk your heart for love to find you". Once again, there's a strutting beat wrapped in the song - it had an ability to inspire, to make you dance, and to go out and find someone to snog, right now. Summer is for the young. This, frankly, is magnificent.

Whatever Lauren Laverne did after Kenickie, whether she's feels any pangs of disappointment the spiky young gang of mates fell apart, we at least knew she was happy. No one could sing this song with the feeling she did, and not be happy. She was in love. On Don't Falter, she shares her exhilaration with the world. It would be a churlish planet that doesn't feel there's something wonderful about that.

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #19 - Kids In America by Kim Wilde

Alyson: Pop is a tricky beast to analyse on this list – I’m never sure we’re doing things justice when we analyse them. You could probably by now a make a serious distinction – there are 3 types of song on this list – songs that are on here for our own, biased personal reasons to give them a credit and a positive write up, songs that are on here because of their historical pop importance, and there are songs that need to be in here because they are fantastic and overwhelmingly fun, and because we’ve probably grown up singing them into our pink hairbrushes. Too often these “greatest songs” lists have all sorts of songs that no one knows, like a Tool B side, to show off the creators vast and fascinating knowledge, when no one is likely to want to play them for enjoyment, as if the sin of creating a fun, catchy pop song you can cherish by singing into your hairbrush and have fun to is a terrible thing. Kids In America, of course, is a definitive hairbrush classic.

Kim Wilde was the daughter of 60s pop star Marty Wilde, and was thrust forward into the world with Father Wilde pushing her forward as a new wave star and backing her all the way. Kim, especially early, never looked fully self confident in her role, blinking nervously through interviews and video clips, but doing her best and imbuing her songs with as much fun as possible. She would go on to do many great things with her pop career, not least of all the quite remarkable “Cambodia”, 1980s synth pop meets strident political statement She would find herself in the charts time and time again, before packing it all in and becoming a gardener. It’s strange that the Kim Wilde story seems to have fallen into the cracks of musical history, but with Kids In America, she should always be exalted when lists like this one are collated.

Kids In America would be in anyones synth pop hall of fame, bouncing along on a heavy early 80s keyboard beat, the perfect tune for all aspiring pop fans to dance along to (and probably, we fell in love with Kim for her nervous dancing in the film clip, which threatens but never quite manages to hit it’s stride). It’s an exhilarating and thrilling single shot of adrenalin through the pop system, celebrating pops ability to lift you out of a dirty town. Above all though, this song is definitively fun and funky, full of a delirious and giddy child like joy. If the ethos of Into The Groove is solving your woes through dance, Kids In America is about the power of imagination, that youth is best lived with pop on the stereo, and with an innocent joy that if you could just get out, that if you could get over to the other side of town, things would be an awful lot better. And there’s no question that for anyone, particularly girls of my age, it’s been turned up LOUD on a hi fi or record player, and serious joyous dancing is undertaken.

After all, Kim Wilde, an English genteel pop star, blinking nervously, extolling the virtues of the kids of east California, a world she didn’t know, with joyous, nervous energy and excitement? It’s hard to think of a more apt summation of Pops power to make you dream. Take THAT Bob Fackin Dylan.

Shane: What makes a pop song, well, POP? Is it the catchy lyrics, a chant that gets into you head and under your skin, simple yet brilliant riffs, or the ability for it to transport you back to how old you were when you first heard the song? Well, when you are talking about Kids In America, then you can answer yes to all of the above; in spades.

From the endless chants of Na Na Nanaaaa and the repetition of the title, to that keyboard that travels through at least half a dozen memorable riffs in the requisite 3 and a half minutes – KiA has it all.

Someone told me that the true mark of great pop is if it makes you, to quote Madonna, "dance for inspiration". There is no way that you can hear KiA and NOT dance – believe me, you WILL be dancing like Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club within a minute. Or your money back. And you can't tell me that you, regardless of gender, haven't hairbrush mimed to this song at least one. I know I have, and was I inspired? You better believe I was. I was as inspired when I was a kid as I am to this day; and for that I salute you, Ms Wilde. Huzzah!

And now, on a more critical bent - the lyrics, which show us the eternally upbeat power of dancing and having an all in knees-up against the bleakness, cruelness and unkind nature of the city (as portrayed by the aforementioned keyboard, with their imitation of car horns and other modern annoyances). Even the shout-out to East California (take THAT, LA) is full of sheer unbridled positivity, the likes of which would not be touched upon until a little lady named Gibson plugged the kids into the mains.

And like it or not, THAT is the power of pop

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #18 - Into The Groove by Madonna

Alyson: In an ideal world, pop stars would never age, never grow up, never falter, and never make mistakes - they'd stay young, lithe and perfect, glamourous, unattainable, and their songs would reflect that. There would be no mis-steps into adult ballads, no searching examinations of other musical genres, no mess and no nonsense. For Madonna though, it's these mistakes that make her career somewhat special - a willingness to fight, a willingess to change with the times. Without the mistakes (The Sex Book) and without her flaws, she wouldn't be the same. She's a flawed person, but a remarkable pop star, especially in the early days when Pop got her out of the rat race. We couldn't do this list without her really.

Claire and I aren't insane, mega Madonna fans - I'm not sure why that is, possibly there's just always been someone else we've been more into, someone new and fresh, and she's been in the background, making amazing pop - Madonna after all has been in our whole life, ambition crazed, doing anything to stay on top, never truly defeated, and we've probably taken her for granted in some ways. The Immaculate Collection, after all, is the greatest Greatest Hits collection in the history of music - perfect pop from beginning to end. Certainly, we wouldn't be doing this list without her. Although in some ways we argue modern Pop stars started with Debbie Harry, without Madonna's obsession to escape the rat race and get front and centre on MTV, 90% of this list wouldn't have happened. There's probably bigger Madonna fans on this collaboration than us, of the woman herself, but even we know she's the most inspirational and important pop figure we will write about on this list.

Insanely, we've probably not defined what, to us, is pop, so far as it goes on this list. Pop to me is an attitude, a feeling - the belief in a music that can take you out of the ordinary and make you dance and move and change your perceptions. It's not novelty, it's not cheap, and it's not throwaway. It's a feeling in many ways - and if any song truly will underscore that, it's Into The Groove. It's a song that's not really on this list for it's tune or remarkable musical impact (although we could rave about that too, but it's deceptively good in that regard) - it's here for it's attitude. We find something very important in pop songs that centre on music to forget your problems and get your cares out on the dancefloor. Into The Groove would be here just for one line, "you can dance, for inspiration" if nothing else, since it's at the heart of the pop credo. It's almost a moot point to discuss this song in any terms other than celebrating it's joy. It's a simple and pure expression of dance floor magic, the ability to use music to lift yourself out of a depression, out a funk. Simply and purely, it's a song about escape, maybe the first modern pop song to express that desire - and that's something very, very special to celebrate. Poets, tedious wordsmiths and miserable indie "gods" will never write a line to match "Only when I'm dancing do I feel this free".

Truly, a work of art, and an inspiration. It's far more important a song than you might think.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #17 - M.Y.O.B by Deborah Gibson

Claire: When I was growing up in the late 1980s, few pop icons had a bigger impact on me than the seemingly perfect blonde eyes and teeth stage girl bred talent of Debbie Gibson. I even had a Debbie Gibson hat with DG on it in sparkly silver letters. I would venture to say if you asked a lot of girls my age their main pop memory of 1989, Electric Youth’s synth pop stylings, insanely over the top video and Debs vivacious energy would spring decisively to mind. She was a particularly unique pop icon, given that shewas a child prodigy with serious musical and song writing ability, who probably could have been a serious boring stodgy singer songwriter, but who, circa Electric Youth, embraced Pop fully and utterly, and loved every single second of it.

Deb, of course, fell quickly and decisively out of favour after that song though, and was oddly finished by 1990. That’s finished in chart terms of course, not finished as an artist. She’s ploughed on, through broadway plays, through mad stalkers, through appearances in Playboy, and through meddlesome fans whinging about her website over and over again. A full decade after her glory years, and newly re-christened Deborah Gibson, she stepped back into the world of proper album making with “M.Y.O.B” – rather sadly, the last 6 or so tracks on the album are a bit adult and naff, some jazz, some noodling, and some more contemporary adult ballads, not much to write home about. But on the title track, the old sparkle was right there, and Deborah, mature adult, became Debbie, teen icon, once again.

“M.Y.O.B” stood for Mind Your Own Business, and it’s as superb a track as Ms Gibson has committed to record. Built initially around a chorus of chanting children gossiping in a playground, the skipping rope/hopscotch beat is sensational, fantastically bubble gum. Debs meanwhile carries the gossiping child motif into the lyrics, relaying the song as if repeating some serious goss to the gathered chanting massive. The kids, meanwhile, are having none of it, intoning to Debs, frankly, to mind her own business. So Debs winds up chanting dementedly to herself, calling and responding to her own conflicted thoughts. By the time all this has gone on, the kids are back into the goss, chanting “1-2-3-4, tell me what you know and I’ll tell you some more!” which of course let’s Debs get out more of her concerns about the hapless relationship of Cathy and CJ and Jackie, sitting at home thinking everything’s fine. The whole song is purest, wonderful bubblegum, straight out of the late 1970s, but wrapped around a hypnotic beat and a rather angst riddled lyric.

Of course, it was a decade past her glory days, so “M.Y.O.B”, despite a rather touching and long sleeve note thanking those who stuck with her, sold about 26 copies around the world. It’s all a bit unfair, but if it’s the last committed pop moment of a loved, but oft overlooked, figure in Pop history, it’s a fitting testament to a really rather fabulous talent.

Alyson: I don’t really remember being enamoured with Debbie Gibson – I think I probably had enough to worry about with Collette and her fun foam pens thankyou very much. It was only later I began to get into the Gibson canon, but I still found a lot of her work a bit earnest and adult – Lost In Your eyes? What was all that about?

However, I do absolutely love M.Y.O.B. If it had been sung by someone young and up and coming, I think it would have been a smash. I love that there’s so much deeply buried in the lower levels of the song, different chants and noises to enjoy, and I love that’s there’s two Debs vocals going on in the song, a dark, gossipy Debs and a more thoughtful, concerned Debs. You can’t go wrong with a song that is based around kids skipping rope, and chanting in a playground. To the best of my knowledge, there wasn’t a film clip to it, which was insane. Surely Debs as a gossipy teacher whispering ½ truths to her kids would have been a sensation?

This is of course, fabulous, and fully endorsed by me as an entry on this list, not least because I love the use of the word POW, and because of it’s sheer funky pop brilliance. Like Britney, having an adult vocal doesn’t make it any less. Comfortably to me Debs best work.

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #16 - All Mixed Up by The Twins

Adem: To this day, it truly saddens me that those crazy Blakeney Twins were not given a hit single in their rather short musical career, because at least one of their three songs deserved to be number 1 for years. The then stars of Neighbours were regarded as quite the sexy pair, and would later be hailed by many as "The Original Izzy Hoyland's", except nowhere near as electrifying.

Or, you know, good.

Yes, they may have come across as rather saturated club anthem seekers, but they were gorgeous, spunky (in a time where the term "spunky" was quite "hip") and were two of the shittest dancers you would ever see in your entire life. It was paramount that they attempt the leap from soap stars to pop stars, after all, Kylie and Jason had done so well following these guidelines, and with the Stock/Aitken/Waterman hit factory - why couldn't they?

"All Mixed Up", unsurprisingly a Stock/Aitken/Waterman production, will forever stand in my eyes as the greatest Australian pop single EVER made. The typical PWL bassline, and the kitchen-sink vocal arrangement stink of the dawn of 1991 - yet if it were to be played in a club today, I can almost guarantee it would be stinker-free and go down a storm. If it were re-released it would probably sell more today than it did then as well.

The song, one about two girls (twins in this particular example) are both seeing the same man, is somewhat touching. You see, this man just cannot decide which of the two girls he wants to be with, hence the lyrics "All mixed up, it's so confusing". Confusing indeed.

Words such as "indecision" are thrown around carelessly by our beloved sister-twins, sister-twins in the public eye years before the Veronicas would enter our homes and hearts. It really is an almighty pity then, that these beloved ladies and their outstanding debut single did not ignite our charts alight. I cannot recall how badly it tanked in Oz, but I have found that it peaked at a disappointing #77 in the U.K.

Where are they now? Those cheeky twins (cheeky before the Cheeky Girls) now run a phenomenally successful toy company in the states. Their own toy company, mind you. Apparently, they're quite filthy rich because of it.

I'm guessing their return to pop may not be happening anytime soon then. What a depressing shame.

BONUS: Download the video clip in all its glory!!>
posted by @ 10:05 PM

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #15 - ...Baby One More Time by Britney Spears

Claire: So, to everything, a beginning.

To be honest, I was going to do this song a lot, lot later – but the Britney Spears story, well, it only makes sense chronologically, how the worlds most beloved pop star became a laughing stock, and hopefully, rose again. And so, the beginning of the career of the pop star I still to this day actually physically worry about, with a piece of pop that is truly unsurpassed. It marked out that emerging for us to enjoy was someone very special. We just had to look after her…

…Baby One More Time (distrust anyone who calls it “Hit Me Baby One More Time”) is the greatest song ever written, in my humble opinion. No song in my life will ever have the impact this one did, to the point I can tell you where I was when I first heard it – on the floor of my old flat in fact, with a disgusting hangover. And without hyperbole, listening to the song and the other worldly brilliance of it somehow made me feel better. This alien schoolgirl, strutting around a schoolyard and basketball court, looking sad but hopeful, when I had no idea who she was, changed the way I think about pop, and music – it was no longer acceptable to just be “OK” or have a nice tune. For pop, it’s a touchstone, a before and after song for our scene. In fact, this is such an obvious induction I was tempted to just point “Look, it’s fucking brilliant – the end”. I don’t feel worthy of writing about this song – I knew I’d have to get to it eventually, it’s just to hard to articulate what I think about it – and it’s importance.

So why is it so amazing, so timeless? It sounds hard, tough, and uncomprising for one thing – it’s a very adult pop song, but I don’t mean that in a boring way. Billie , of the time, sounded like the voice of pop youth, but this was pop with attitude, something much harder and meaningful. It’s also a song that can’t be sung by anyone on the planet but Britney, it sounds like a dream meeting of her vocal style and song that was planned by committee. Almost every single word in this song is purely and simply Britneys. “Bay-beh”, “Meh” “Sigh-high-high-hein”. “You-huh”. It’s an astonishing vocal calling card, something rarely discussed in discussions of the song. I know a lot of people who think this song sounds robotic, which I disagree with. I think in the course of one song, this song mostly, she’s capable of sounding human and vulnerable one minute, and possessed and powerful the next. In fact, it’s still as powerful a song as I’ve ever heard, it’s packed with emotion, verve, and it still hits me in a different way every time I hear it. Lyrically, I don’t think any song has re-assured me or made me feel better in my life – I used to always think when my ship came in in life, this song would be playing, and “Don’t YOU KNOW I STILL believe”, sung in that powerful Britney way, would be ringing in my ears. And it was. Production wise, it’s perfect, nothing over the top, nothing gaudy that would date within weeks, but imbued with a much imitated, but never bettered strut to it that influences pop to this day.

In truth, of all the songs on this list, this is the one I can’t write about. It’s got the greatest intro in musical history, all strutting swagger and defiance, it’s got the greatest outro in musical history, from the song dropping out in a moment of uncertainty to swelling back up as Britney defiantly restates her position – what do you say?

You say, simply, it’s the best song of all time. No more, no less.